best film: La La Land came along in December of 2016 and saved a really weak year. Chazelle’s Whiplash is brilliant but even with my high esteem for that film, I didn’t see this stylistic sonic-boom coming. It’s big and bold. It is it’s own distinctive film with a pure fresh voice but also it tips the cap to Demy, I Am Cuba, Scorsese, Woody Allen and others. It’s one of the best films of the past 10 years.
most underrated: Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is as underrated as Dazed and Confused (the film Everybody Wants Some is the spiritual sequel of) upon it’s release. 20-some year’s later Dazed is at #647 all-time and I expect this one will someday be on the list as well. For now, however, the critics’ have ignored it and shelved it at #23 for 2016. I’ve got it at #4.
most overrated: Toni Erdmann currently sits at #2 on the consensus list and I’d be at least #15 or lower if I placed it right now. I think it’s a good comic/drama with solid acting and an intelligent screenplay but I don’t see the aesthetic or formal achievement.
gem I want to spotlight: On the flip side, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is all formal achievement with the docudrama approach and formally weaving in the traveling sequences with heavy music. The night scenes are dazzling shot by DP Robbie Ryan. There’s a bit of Malick here (or like David Gordon Green’s George Washington which is the same thing).
trends and notables: As I said above, Chazelle’s bomb changed 2016. Soon after that, actually into the early part of 2017, I finally caught Jarmusch’s Paterson as well so 2016 is not a loss. These two films help buoy a weaker year with some solid earlier entries (moonlight, hell or high water, and arrival included). The story here, and it’ll continue into 2017, after Chazelle and Jarmusch is actually Villenuve with his second consecutive top 10 film. James Gray continues to live in the back half of my year-end top 10’s as well (I believe this is his 4th in a 10 year stretch). Sign me up for those films all day. It’ll take longer to spot other trends but 2016 was a disappointing year for the Coen’s and Scorsese. These auteurs have been two of the greatest of all-time and although I archives their films they didn’t even land in my top 20 of the year and that’s a disappointment given their pedigree. I hope their next venture is better.
best performance male: It’s Gosling here. He has already put together an impressive career but it seems unlikely, even at the young age of 36 upon release, that he will be in a better movie and he’s dazzling here. Adam Driver is in the same stratosphere at least with his methodical work in Jarmusch’s formal masterpiece. Casey Affleck is devastatingly good in Manchester by the Sea and Mahershala Ali was a revelation for me in Moonlight.
best performance female: Emma Stone doesn’t get the final look like Gosling does (which I think compares so well with Clark Gable’s in Gone with the Wind) but her “Audition” is her Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive – audition scene and she gets even more here in a film that is close to as good (if not as good). She’s the head and shoulder’s choice in 2016 for this category. Behind her Amy Adams is superb in Arrival. Behind those two I want to highlight newcomer Sasha Lane in American Honey and Elle Fanning in Neon Demon (with some fine supporting work in 20th Century Women as well).
- La La Land
- American Honey
- Everybody Wants Some
- Hell or High Water
- Manchester by the Sea
- The Lost City of Z
- 20th Century Women
Archives, Directors, and Grades
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives